U.S. House Agriculture Committee advances Cattle Contract Library and 4 other bills

By:Peggy Kirk Hall, Associate Professor, Agricultural & Resource Law Thursday, October 28th, 2021
U.S. House Agriculture Committee hearing room

Infrastructure legislation and the Build Back Better reconciliation bill have consumed Washington lately, but the House Agriculture Committee set those issues aside long enough last week to tend to several other pieces of legislation.  The committee passed five bills on to the House in its committee hearing on October 21.  Here’s a summary of each:

H.R. 5609, the Cattle Contract Library Act of 2021, likely made the biggest splash in the agriculture community.  Sponsored by Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and 23 co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle, the legislation would address beef supply and pricing transparency issues by requiring:

  1. A mandatory reporting program for packers, who must file information with USDA for:
    • The type of each contract offered to producers of fed cattle, classified by the mechanism used to determine the base price for the fed cattle committed to the packer, including formula purchases, negotiated grid purchases, and forward contracts;
    • A contract’s duration;
    • All contract summary information;
    • Contract provisions that may affect the price of cattle, including base price, schedules of premiums or discounts, and transportation;
    • Total number of cattle covered by a contract that is solely committed to the packer each week within the 6 and 12-month periods following the date of the contract;
    • For contracts where a specific number of cattle aren’t committed solely to the packer, an indication that the contract is an open commitment and any weekly, monthly, annual, or other limitations on the number of cattle that may be delivered to the packer under the contract;
    • A description of contract terms that provide for expansion in the committed numbers of fed cattle to be delivered under the contract for the 6 and 12-month periods after its date.
  2. USDA must maintain the information submitted by packers in a publicly available library in a “user-friendly format,” including real-time notice, if practicable, of the types of contracts that are being offered by packers that are open to acceptance by producers.
  3. USDA must establish a competitive program to award Producer Education Grants for producer outreach and education on the best uses of cattle market information, including the Cattle Contract Library.
  4. USDA must also provide weekly or monthly reports based on the information collected from packers of:
    • The total number of fed cattle committed under contracts for delivery to packers within the 6-month and 12-month periods following the date of the report, organized by reporting region and type of contract;
    • The number of contracts with an open commitment along with any weekly, monthly, annual or other limitations on the number of cattle that may be delivered under such contracts; and
    • The total maximum number of fed cattle that may be delivered within the 6-month and 12-month periods following the date of the report, organized by reporting region and type of contract.

H.R. 4252 proposes additional scholarship funding for students at the nation’s 1890 land grant institutions, which includes Central State University here in Ohio. 
Committee Chairman David Scott (D-GA) is the sponsor of the bill, which would allocate $100 million for scholarships and make the scholarship program permanent. 

H.R. 5608 proposes the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act, a bi-partisan bill sponsored by Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) and House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Glenn Thompson (R-PA).  The act proposes a research program, support for state management efforts, and public education to tackle chronic wasting disease, a fatal neurological disease in deer, elk, and moose.  Those initiatives would receive $70 million each year from 2022 to 2028.

H.R. 4489, the National Forest Restoration and Remediation Act, is also a bi-partisan bill and is sponsored by Rep. Kim Schrier, (D-WA), Matt Rosendale (R-MT), Joe Neguse (D-CO) and Dough LaMalfa (R-CA).  The bill would allow the U.S. Forest Service to use interest earned on settlement funds for clean-up and restoration of damaged forest lands.

H.R. 5589, the Pyrolysis Innovation Grants Act, is dubbed as a “green technology bill” by sponsors Rep. Josh Harder (D-CA), Rep. Jimmy Panetta(D-CA) and Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA).  The proposal would invest $5 million per year through 2027 for USDA pilot projects in pyrolysis, a process that reduces greenhouse gas emissions from burning nut shells by converting the shells into fuels, nutrients, and other commodities.